34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2002
Review of When Generations Collide
The Book's Thesis: If you work with people from other generations, you need to understand that conflicting perspectives between the generations can generate workplace conflict.
Obviously, this is an old theme. There are plenty of quotable inter-generational digs and barbs recorded in the earliest writings of antiquity.
More recently, during my youth in the tumultuous late 1960s and early '70s, we spoke openly and frequently about the "generation gap."
This perennial topic has been treated seriously by credible writers in other business books over the past decade. (I have penned a few articles on it in recent years as well.)
Of the books on this now familiar theme, this one takes a less statistical and analytical approach in favor of a more anecdotal slant on the topic.
Lancaster, a Baby Boomer, and Stillman, a Gen Xer, are business partners who write in a chatty style. They lace their broad observations about generations with illustrations derived from their own personal lives. Often, they make their point by telling stories about the conflicts between the two of them---which they blame on their age difference.
And they never miss an opportunity to remind you that they speak and give seminars on this topic. While those frequent reminders border on annoying, the authors do not seem to be indulging in crass commercialism---search all you want and you won't find information in the book about contacting the author-consultants to purchase their services.
Instead, speechmaking (and speech coaching to the likes of pop business pontificator Harvey Mackay, who penned the book's anemic Foreword) seems to define the authors' rather limited frame of reference in the business world.
As other reviewers have noted, the authors' attention to detail, facts, and rigorous analysis have taken a back seat to their breezy narrative.
In an attempt to provide statistical data on generational differences, the authors point to results from an online survey they conducted. You don't have to be a career researcher or social scientist to recognize that such surveys are comprised of small, non-random, non-representative and therefore invalid samples. That is especially true when extrapolating tiny slivers of data to reach conclusions about an entire generation representing *tens of millions* of people!
Still, these flaws notwithstanding, this engaging, readable book makes some worthwhile observations about the rather amorphous and extremely broad topic of generational strife. Despite my reservations, I found myself highlighting pithy passages and dog-earring quite a few pages.
If you can look past the authors' indulgent style and occasional gaffs and lapses, "When Generations Collide" serves as an approachable and palatable overview of potential generational friction in the workplace---and wherever people of varying ages interact.
75 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2002
In 1991, William Strauss and Neil Howe published "Generations", a book which asserted the existence of a generational personality. Since that time, theorists in the Human Resource field have attempted to apply this notion to the world of work. Authors trying to make this connection included Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and others. These books follow a typical pattern:
Step 1: Generations are defined as those Americans born between two selected years. The Baby Boomer generation born between 1946 and 1964 or, by other accounts 1943 and 1960, usually is the anchor.
Step 2: Major societal events occurring in the formative years of these generations are cited as forces shaping a personality of these age cohorts which stays with them throughout life.
Step 3: The difference between generations is claimed to be a major diversity concern affecting American businesses.
"When Generations Collide" by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman follows this pattern. In my view, this is an awful book, flawed on these and other counts:
1. It describes as a generational cohort (sometimes as one generation, sometimes as two) Americans born between 1900 and 1945. This is a mammoth grouping, about which it is difficult to make any meaningful generalizations. To lump together these people, born over several decades, and to proceed to describe a common personality is arrogant. Some of these people came of age during World War I, others during the Cuban Missle Crisis. This large-scale approach is also contrary to the more discrete groupings made by other generational commentators.
2. Lancaster and Stillman describe generational personalities quite differently than other commentators. They describe the Americans born between 1900 and 1945 as "God-fearing, hardworking and patriotic." Aside from the obvious stereotyping, its worth noting that while the historians Strauss and Howe use terms like these to describe some of the Americans born in these years, they also describe some of them as having a declining interest in religion and as a generation coasting along on the accomplishments of others. Who is right?
3. Lancaster and Stillman need a fact checker. Even a nonspecialist notes claims like the one that the dance, the Twist, was a key cultural factor for the 1900- 1945 generation. (It was introduced in the 1960's). Other claims include one that certain modern employees long for workplace of the 1940's, when a worker would need to be at least in their 70's in 2002 to have worked in the last year of that decade. Here is an understatement: there are more such discrepancies.
4. Most significantly, as often happens with the theorists of the generational personality, the authors engage in gross stereotyping. Again, a pattern is followed, beginning with decrying others who stereotype instead of "get(ing) to know who these generations really are..." Note: the authors teach that stereotyping is avoided not in getting to know actual people, but only age cohorts.
It is very tempting to read this as feigned outrage when the authors then proceed to build a book around what seems to be stereotyping. We are taught by Lancaster and Stillman that: Baby Boomers (1946-1964) resent Xers (1965-1980) for finding it easy to change jobs; that Xers resent Traditionalists (1900-1945) for being resistant to change; that Baby Boomers are competitive; that Xers are skeptical. As an aside, I reviewed descriptions of young people as reported in the popular media of the early 1970's. A common description of the young at that time was skeptical. This is suggestive that life stages rather than a generational personality are a far more important factor. Here is a common-sense question: Is it really very unusual to view young people at any time as skeptical? Why build it into a description distinguishing young people of the 1990's from the young a generation ago?
5. There is a trendy, cliche-ridden writing style. Beaver Cleaver is linked rhetorically with Eldridge Cleaver as influential people for Baby Boomers; "Mad" Magazine with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) as an example of life being complex. There is gross exageration: The so-called conflicts between generations are called "earth shattering." One of the worst examples of hyperbole is this description of the 1980's: "Children mysteriously disappeared from neighborhoods and showed up frighteningly at the breakfast table on milk cartons." O.K., but this just might be stretching things a bit.
There is another problem with this whole notion of a generational personality. Besides the lack of any coherent foundation and aside from all the stereotyping, it diverts crucial resources from real diversity issues. I might speculate on why managers would find it more comfortable to talk about their diversity concerns as they pertain to Baby Boomers or what is was like to be young, but I can't understand why diversity professionals allow the concept of a generational personality to take resources away from concerns about race, gender or sexual orientation.
The best clue that the idea of a generational personality may lack content comes near the end of this 352-page book, when Lancaster and Stillman summarize their advice. They tell us: flexibility is in; give people the benefit of the doubt; don't forget the little things.
Thanks, we needed that information.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2002
For the first time in the U.S. history, we have four separate generations working side-by-side. They are the Traditionalists, Baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Y. While there is really no magic birth date that makes one a member of a specific generation, one's experience and sharing of history helps shape a `generational personality' during their formative years. This is a must-read book as `one-size' does not fit each generation's needs in terms of benefits, working hours, places of employment, methods of training/motivation and retention.
With four generations in the work system, misunderstandings happen. Additionally, progressive organizations are realizing they need to develop new recruiting procedures, create new compensation,benefit and retention strategies to attract and retain the best of the four diverse groups in the work system. When generational collisions occur, it results in reduced profitability, presents hiring challenges, increased turnover rates, and decreased morale. Understanding the various generational identities will help in building bridges in the work environment. The book authors, Lancaster and Stillman, describe for the reader the four generational personalities and provide suggestions regarding rewards/retention/motivatational techniques that appeal to each generation. Briefly, the four generations are defined:
Traditionalists were born between the turn of the last century and the end of World War II (1900-1945) and they number about 5M in population. The Traditionalists were impacted by two World Wars and the Great Depression. They learned to do without and the management style they learned came from the military - a top-down, boot-camp method. They were cautious, obedient. and spoke when spoken to. They would have never called their boss by `his' first name. For years they had career security of life-long employment opportunities so all the downsizing of the 80s/90s initially took them by shock. They have their own preference regarding rewards and respond to different recruiting messages.
Baby Boomers: (Born from 1946-1964) represents the largest population ever born in the U.S. Their large number of about 80M created a competitive nature among them for jobs/opportunities. For the most part, they grew up in suburbs, had educational opportunities above their parents, saw lots of consumer products hit the marketplace (calculators, appliances). The television had a significant impact on their views of the world regarding equal opportunity and other human rights. They represent a great recruiting target as they `retool' for new career opportunities for those recruiters who have the knowledge on how to attract them.
Generation X: Many members of the Generation X emerged into the workplace during the 1990s expansion and this is the smallest generation in terms of numbers (46M- due to birth control and working moms). They had a distinct competitive advantage in choice jobs `they wanted.' The technological revolution exacerbated their successes as they are techno savvy unlike their Boomer competitors. Rather than `paying their dues for a number of years' as previous generations did, they were able to demand that organizations adapt to their ways of doing things creating disbelief from the Traditionalist/Boomers. (Actually, the Gen Xers have made the work place a better system for all of us by demanding flex hours, telecommuting, etc). Gen Xers grew up a skeptical group due to fractured family systems, violence in the news, AIDS, drugs, child molsters and downsizings. Generation Xers are dash board diners and being latchkey kids taught them independence. They detest micro-management in the work environment and want constant feedback on how they are performing. Recruiters and HR personnel need specifics to attract, motivate and retain Gen Xers.
Gen Y/ Millennial Generation: This 75M techno-savvy, multi-tasking generation has had access to cell phones, personal pagers, and computers most of their life. They have, for the most part, led privileged lives traveling more than previous generations to world wide areas, growing up in `fun' day care programs/activities, owning the best in technology and being included in family collaborations that involve major issues ranging from where to live, the decorations in their bedroom to vacation trips. Their parents/teachers have coached them to build extensive portfolios (for college), therefore, they will most likely be portfolio conscious and looking for career expansion opportunities. Futurists predict they will change jobs 7-10 times and even change careers 2 or 3 times. They were also taught to question parents/teachers and the status quo. They have served in school peer-court systems having a say in major decisions and this will impact how they will respond and adapt within workplace system. The authors provide some specific recruiting/retention strategies to attract this generation.
Looking at the workplace as a system, these generational variances present recruiting, rewarding and retention challenges. Employee turnover eats up management hours and dollars spent advertising and conducting searches for, interviewing, hiring and training new recruits. Its takes up remaining employees' time covering open positions. It frustrates customers who often receive substandard or inconsistent service.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2006
This is probably your best bet for a book on generations in the workplace. It's not long on data, but it does apply knowledge about generations in a very useful way. It's not a deep treatment, but it gets the job done. A fairly quick read, and good if you just want to understand people of different ages in the workplace.
If you are interested in learning more about generations overall, and applying the knowledge yourself (easy to do), there's the classic (_Generations_ by Strauss & Howe, strong on theory and the overall picture, though outdated with its 1991 pub date) or the more recent _Generation Me_, with data on how the generations differ psychologically.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I found this book to be very informative and readable. The book gives a number of good insights about the different values of four generations in the workplace today. There are lots of examples and solutions to making the workplace more productive and fun. Unfortunately, the book's focus is on business, making money and working together better. Guess that's what pays the bills. I guess the insights can help in relationships throughout society but for those who are looking for answers outside of business this might be a hard read to get through.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work
It took me years to complete reading this book. Because: It was a library book and I inadvertently lost it and had to pay for it while the library never replaced it.
Having recently found myself in generational conflict in a volunteer organization, and spent the last decade in a town full of boomer retirees; we find generational conflict effecting our social life and social standing in the most frustrating of ways. Not to mention spending a career under the ceiling of the Baby Boomer generation (but @ 51 years of age, not young enough to be a Generation Xer) constantly dealing with too many chiefs and me the Lone Indian with a limited workforce coming along after. (We are twixters, Lynn calls them 'cuspers' in the book; falling in between the two generations.) So, I splurged on a couple of copies, passed them out to my informal reading club (who are definitively cross generational) and began reading again.
Before I lost the library book, I found reading it pushed my buttons, perhaps more than enlightening. Anecdotal instances certainly evoked memories of frustrations of conflict in our personal lives and careers. The title certainly addressed an issue we were concerned about our entire adult life: the stratification of our society. However, the book addresses the issue only by age; we find ourselves segmented by age and every other division possible, religion, race, gender, socio-economic and education levels, divide, divide, divide; pigeonhole whenever possible separate and isolate like an assembly line. I'm the product of a generation of over-isolated over-divided over-segmented societal norms and hoped to find some solutions in this book. Unfortunately Lynn never addresses the more global nature of this issue outright. She limits herself to the business world and she writes about a sliver of the business world, large corporate conglomerations who can afford to over-manage their employees. In a world of leaner smaller businesses who can move on a dime to re-frame themselves, she misses this and other major solutions to the problem.
Upon a thorough reading of the book, I have more frustrations rather than less. Two main criticisms are that Lynn writes with the judgmental nature of a Baby Boomer. Tom Brokow may have called the Traditionalist (actually two generations Lynn seems comfortable lumping together) "The Greatest Generation" but Lynn seems to defer to them only in seniority which later in the book she initially agrees with then later discounts saying that we now must defer to the younger generations: The 'Baby Boomer's' offspring! Narcissistic, much? When you only place yourself in a position to associate with people who look, and think, and live exactly as you,
you begin to think you are always right.
When you make a statement and no one disagrees it reinforces the idea that you are always right. When everyone else is in the same boat as yourself there are no dissenting voices. Eventually you begin to hear murmurs of distant dissent and since you have already determined that you are always right you create political correctness . . . and begin to discourage dissenting voices . . . creating more isolation.!
When she allows for her partner David (gen Xer) to add his opinions to the book she even prefaces them in a judgmental way and follows up with her CORRECTIONS to his input. This narrow minded judgmentalism only adds to my frustration with Lynn's Baby Boomer generation.
And secondly, Lynn spends much time repeating her sales line and effectively selling her services. Way too much repetition in the book. Hint to Lynn: When writing to other generations than Boomer's repetition is not as necessary.
The book has few helpful direct solutions. Other than examples of specific solutions specific companies found for specific problems. On the other hand, not many available resources do much to answer the questions I have with generational conflict in my volunteer organization so this is a beginning and has given me a good starting point with my informal mentoring/book group-circle of friends. Those conversations are helpful and so I am thankful to Lynn for beginning the dialogue. Would really like to talk to her directly. Wondering why in this age of technology, the web page and other access isn't given? Too GenX? Dialogue might be more helpful than surveys. Which don't seem so scientific in her search for 'truth'.
I've begun reading her next book (which I had already purchased prior to purchasing "When Generations Collide") on the Millennial generation with less optimism. Hoping for more dialogue to be generated.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2010
I thought I would read this book (although fairly dated by now) before tackling their new release, the M-factor. I probably will not bother after all. Their style perfectly illustrates the old saying that "to a hammer everything looks like a nail".
While they make some good points, all within the first 25 pages or so, the following 300 pages is a tedious repetition of the same anecdotes, slightly repackaged. There is virtually no substantive data or analysis - the book seems to be just a vehicle to promote their lucrative consulting business - after all, every "expert" needs the pedigree of a published book.
I do not disagree that there are generational factors that make up the workforce diversity continuum, but the authors' position is that generational gaps drive that diversity. I think it's the other way around - the evolving demographics of the workforce is more responsible for driving generational diversity, and that is what businesses should (and thankfully do) address.
Since WW2, more women, African Americans and ethnically and culturally diverse workers have joined the workforce, moving into the higher levels. This was due to the strong economic growth that has been drawing more workers, and the consequential wave of immigration from "non-traditional" European nations, who are culturally more different than the prior mainstream population. This phenomenon has been accelerating since WW2 and thus happens to be in temporal alignment with age and generation, but as I see it, age and generation are not the primary causes of this diversity.
For example, I happen to be one of the early baby boomers (1948). I was not born in the USA so English is my second language; even my religious heritage is different from over 90% of the US population. Not surprisingly, I do not fit the baby boomer stereotype on which the authors hang their hat. In fact, I don't fit any of the stereotypes they advocate. Multiply this by the millions of non white-male-Christain workers in the workforce, and you will see that generation can only amount to a minor factor in the diversity equation.
Another aspect of the book that bothers me is that the authors gather their tales from the top stratum of the business population - from those managers and high level technocrats who are given the opportunity to attend their seminars. This group represents a highly filtered and biased sample of the total workforce population.
Overall, I found this a very superficial and trivialized treatment of the subject and am not impressed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2008
I could not finish reading this book. Boring, without much substance, full of gross stereotypes and generalizations, this is at best an article. Somehow authors managed to stretch it into a book. Way too long, fails to engage the reader. They run courses on this topic, if they talk about the same stuff in the same way, I can imagine what that must be like ... I'd prefer a root canal job, thank you! Pass.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2002
Now I can understand why my 13-year old wanted her own PDA for her 13th birthday while I was perfectly content watching a Beatles movie when I turned 13 years old!
I have just finished reading this book from cover to cover and found it to be extremely engaging, funny, informative and invaluable. I recently saw Lancaster and Stillman speak and was intrigued watching them in action-- as business partners, authors and great friends. Their partnership is clearly the selling point and the foundation in which I have appreciated this book. They are both funny, smart and very passionate about this topic.
This book is extremely well written with strong content, relevant research and personal anecdotes. My favorite area has been the specific ClashPoints they have identified and explain each from the 4 generational points of views. Right on!
This book is a must-read for high level executives in Corporate America who need to better understand how to recruit, manage, develop and retain a diverse workforce. It should also be on every parent's nightstand as they learn to balance the needs and expectations of their aging parents and their growing children.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
There are currently 4 generations in the workplace and this book almost completely ignores the 4th and newest on of all - Millenials. It mentions them at the start, but that's about it. Many organizations are currently trying to figure out the newest generation and I thought this book would give insight to that and help us figure out how to have ALL 4 generations work with each other, not just 3. Another thing...it uses the series drama ER as a reference point...I'd prefer some real life work examples rather than use a show I never saw as a reference point. This is not worth the purchase. You can get all their information by just looking it all up on the wiki.